Family Time in Salt Lake City

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Family Time in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City offers families zoos and parks, museums and galleries, festivals and sporting events, and, of course, the greatest of the outdoors, no matter the season.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo by Barbara Schoenfeld
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    Accessible High Art
    The celebrated Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed at the inauguration of five American presidents, 13 World’s Fairs, countless live events, and some of the largest concert halls in the world. But the ideal place to experience a performance remains the Tabernacle Theatre at Temple Square. SLC’s historic Capitol Theatre, built in 1913, is home to the Utah Opera, Children’s Dance Theatre, Ballet West, and more, and serves as a great family introduction to the world of high art. Utah’s answer to Broadway, the Capitol is located in a lively part of town known for its architectural marvels.
    Photo by Barbara Schoenfeld
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    Museums for All the Family
    Utah’s cultural and historical capital, SLC is home to numerous museums, art galleries, and monuments. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts rotates 15 exhibitions annually, and features important works from local Utah and Western masters. It also hosts a series of workshops, discussions, and film programs. The Natural History Museum of Utah displays more than 5,000 fascinating artifacts, and pays homage to Utah’s spectacular archaeological legacy. Kids can go hands-on with a number of paleontological discoveries at The Children’s Museum of Utah, a 60,000-square-foot emporium of educational fun. Also educational is The Leonardo science and technology museum, with interactive exhibits exploring the intersection of science, technology, and art.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Salt Lake
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    Close Encounters of the Wild Kind
    The excellent Hogle Zoo offers children close encounters of the wild kind, along with educational programs that encourage them to learn more about the natural world. The Tracy Aviary is the oldest of its kind in the United States; home to more than 130 species of birds, the aviary also offers a number of programs and exhibitions designed to foster interest in native bird populations. Living Planet Aquarium is a hit with kids of all ages, and the three main exhibits—Ocean Explorer, Journey to South America, and Discover Utah—each offer a different look at life underwater.
    Photo by Holger Leue/age fotostock
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    Parks and Recreation
    Liberty is to Salt Lake City what Central is to New York, only quieter and lacking in Hollywood movie shoots. Sprawling Liberty Park features a number of walking and running paths, a swimming pool, children’s amusement park, picnic facilities, and paddleboats for those who want to get out on the pond. Memory Grove Park features a number of solemn memorials to Utah veterans of foreign wars, and a replica of the Liberty Bell; it also boasts an excellent trail network linking the park to the mountains beyond the city limits. City Creek Park’s triple-arch bridge, reflecting pond, and beautiful streams make it a great place to snap some family photos.
    Photo by Thom Gourley/age fotostock
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    Temple Square and Other Historical Attractions
    SLC boasts a number of important historical attractions, many of which exist beyond the boundaries of museums. Heritage Park is said to be where city founder Brigham Young uttered his famous phrase: "This is the right place." Today, it features Mormon settler monuments and a recreated frontier village. Downtown’s Temple Square is Utah’s most famous attraction, and not only because it is the center of power for the LDS Church; the museums, library, gardens, and the main temple itself are architecturally as well as historically significant. The Pony Express National Historic Trail commemorates America’s first postal service; kids won’t believe that horses carried mail across the country.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Family-Friendly Festivals
    Many of SLC’s festivals and civic events cater to families. The Living Traditions Festival, held in May, is a celebration of traditional ethnic and folk arts presented by the SLC Arts Council. Utah Arts Festival is a four-day event held the third weekend in June that draws nearly 100,000 attendees to Library and Washington Squares. Culinary masters, performing arts groups, and visual artists are the stars of Utah’s largest outdoor arts fest, an event with plenty to keep everyone in the family occupied. The Days of ’47 Parade and Rodeo, held each July, commemorates the pioneer settlers of Salt Lake Valley with a raucous Western bash and classic cowboy good times. Shine your boots and brush up on your line dancing skills.
    Photo courtesy of Emily Sargent/Visit Salt Lake
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    Lights, Camera, Action
    There’s only one event that commands more attention than a good dump of fresh powder, and that’s Robert Redford’s annual Sundance Film Festival. Sundance attracts nearly 50,000 attendees each year, and premieres feature-length and short documentary films from Hollywood legends and indie darlings. The festival includes categories dedicated to family films. The popularity of Sundance has created a boom in the Park City/Salt Lake film scene, with indie festivals like Slamdance gaining popularity. The Salt Lake City Film Festival kicked off in 2009 as a showcase for true indie film (and a commentary on corporate influence at Sundance) and has become a late-September institution on the SLC calendar.
    Photo by Heather Mahoney
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    Informative Tours of the City
    Tours sometimes get a bad rap, but your entire crew will change their tune after Salt Lake City Tours turns the city inside out right before your eyes. Dig deep into the history of Temple Square, learn the secrets of the Capitol Theatre, and tick numerous points of interest off your hit list. Carriage for Hire Private Tours arranges a one-hour SLC adventure that somehow makes time for City Creek Canyon, Ottinger Hall, Memory Grove Park, Main Street, the Gallivan Center, and more. If you’re tight on time in the city and looking for a family-friendly activity that will shed a bit of light on the area, Carriage for Hire is a great way to get about town.
    Photo by age fotostock